Israel severs ties with UN Human Rights Council

Jerusalem calls in envoys from "friendly" states that voted for fact-finding mission on settlements.

UNHRC 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Following its decision Monday to cut off all ties with the UN Human Rights Council, the Foreign Ministry must now draft guidelines regarding what this entails and how long the ban will be in effect, a diplomatic source said Monday.
One issue that needs to be determined is whether Israel would work through other friendly countries on the council, such as the US, when it wants its input to be heard.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decided at a meeting of the ministry’s top staff Monday morning to sever ties with the UNHRC, following the body’s decision last Thursday by a vote of 36-1, with 10 abstentions, to dispatch a fact-finding team to Israel to probe the impact of the settlements on Palestinian human rights. Only the US voted against the move.
From now on, a senior diplomatic official said, Israel’s ambassador to the UN organizations in Geneva will not appear before the council, answer any of its phone calls or cooperate with Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay in any way.
Israel will also bar the settlement fact-finding mission from entering Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN is not going to be withdrawn from Geneva, however, because there are a number of other UN organizations there that Israel does fully cooperate with and will continue to do so.
In addition, the ministry decided that efforts will be made to convince other supportive countries on the council – first and foremost the US – to cut ties with the organization as well, even though this seems unlikely. One senior official said that even if success was not guaranteed, an attempt must still be made.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel summoned on Monday the ambassadors of several of the countries that voted for the factfinding commission to protest their support for the move. He would not specify which countries were involved, beyond saying that they were the countries with whom Israel has friendly ties, and from whom Israel expected “more.”
Austria and Belgium – which are EU members – and Norway and Switzerland – which are not – were the four western European countries that voted for the measure. By contrast, EU countries Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania all abstained.
Although Israel decided to cut ties with the council, no decision has been made as yet regarding what sanctions to take against the Palestinian Authority, which initiated this action.
Amid speculation that Israel may once again cut off monthly tax revenues that it transfers to the PA, as it did following UNESCO’s decision to accept the Palestinians into the organization in November, one senior diplomatic official said that there were other measures that could be taken. He did not elaborate.
The official said it was clear that the PA-originated push for the fact-finding mission was part of the Palestinian strategy of unilateralism, and that having given up on negotiations, the PA is now trying to take a series of unilateral steps that would push Israel into a corner. They are focusing on the settlement issue, the official said, because they view it as Israel’s “Achilles heel” in the international arena.
At a certain point, the official said, Israel would need to reevaluate its whole policy toward the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, because the current track was not working.
UN Human Rights Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre, meanwhile, said she had not received official confirmation of Israel’s decision to sever ties, though she had seen a number of press reports on the matter.
“If it is indeed the case, this would be most regrettable,” she said. “The decision to dispatch a fact-finding mission, one of more than 40 resolutions approved by the Human Rights Council at the end of its session last week, revealed widespread cross-regional support with only one of the 47 member states of the Council voting against the decision.”
Lasserre said it was in Israel’s “interest” to cooperate with the fact-finding panel so it could “explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed.”
She said the council “always valued Israel’s participation.”
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.